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Uber launches electric fleet of Teslas as self-driving California cars are cancelled

Uber executives will undoubtedly have mixed emotions as they arrive to work at the company’s San Francisco headquarters on Thursday morning. On one hand, the company’s freshly launched self-driving car pilot in San Francisco has come to an early and abrupt end. The Department of Motor Vehicles was tired of the back and forth with Uber, which had refused to obtain special permits for its self-driving Volvo SUVs because it insisted they did not fit California’s definition of true autonomous cars. So, the DMV revoked the registrations of all 16 vehicles, making it impossible to operate them legally on San Francisco roads.

On the bright side, Uber launched a new fleet of Tesla taxis on Thursday, its first ever fleet of electric vehicles.

“We’re now looking at where we can redeploy these cars but remain 100 percent committed to California and will be redoubling our efforts to develop workable statewide rules,” an Uber spokeswoman said following the California DMV’s decision to revoke the registration on each of Uber’s self-driving cars. For the time being, the company has not announced concrete plans to relaunch its self-driving car initiative.

But halfway around the world, things are looking much brighter for Uber on Thursday.

Uber first began to test electric vehicles for its on demand car services in London and Portugal, but fleets have yet to officially launch in either of those markets at this point. Instead, Uber’s first fleet of electric taxis has just hit the roads in Madrid, where a severe problem with pollution has prompted a great deal of interest in electric vehicles.

As has been the case in many markets, Uber ran into problems with Spain’s taxi commission following its launch in the country. It’s new fleet of Teslas is seen in part as an effort to play nice with the local government in Spain’s capital city. Uber currently operates with a restricted permit in Madrid, which prevents the company from expanding its operations in the region.

“We want to do things that are in line with what the town hall wants,” an Uber executive told Reuters. “We would love to see more licenses awarded in the future, perhaps for greener cars so there could be more in circulation.”

Uber’s new fleet of Tesla cars will be part of the company’s “UberONE” service in Madrid, a costly high-end taxi service that offers premium features to passengers, such as in-car Wi-Fi connectivity.


Zach Epstein

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content.

Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment. His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.